The importance of scaling for detecting community patterns: Success and failure in assemblages of introduced species

Craig R. Allen, David G. Angeler, Michael P. Moulton, Crawford S. Holling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Community saturation can help to explain why biological invasions fail. However, previous research has documented inconsistent relationships between failed invasions (i.e., an invasive species colonizes but goes extinct) and the number of species present in the invaded community. We use data from bird communities of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, which supports a community of 38 successfully established introduced birds and where 37 species were introduced but went extinct (failed invasions). We develop a modified approach to evaluate the effects of community saturation on invasion failure. Our method accounts (1) for the number of species present (NSP) when the species goes extinct rather than during its introduction; and (2) scaling patterns in bird body mass distributions that accounts for the hierarchical organization of ecosystems and the fact that interaction strength amongst species varies with scale. We found that when using NSP at the time of extinction, NSP was higher for failed introductions as compared to successful introductions, supporting the idea that increasing species richness and putative community saturation mediate invasion resistance. Accounting for scale-specific patterns in body size distributions further improved the relationship between NSP and introduction failure. Results show that a better understanding of invasion outcomes can be obtained when scale-specific community structure is accounted for in the analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-241
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015


  • Body size
  • Community assembly
  • Community structure
  • Competition
  • Hawaii
  • Introduced
  • Oahu

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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